About 3 years ago, I was at the beginning of my maternity leave. I was also busy making the husband-geek’s traditional three course birthday dinner. I rolled out fresh pasta, while a beefy ragout simmered on the stove. I then set about making the crowning glory of the meal- a chocolate caramel tart. It looks like a chocolate tart but it tastes like a Twix candy bar. I ran across this recipe in Sherry Yard’s book, The Secrets of Baking. In the book, it was called the Halsey Tart in honor of Mr. Halsey, a candy maker for Mars. Now, normally, I LOVE challenges, but on that occasion, I was a bit frazzled because of my giant watermelon belly and because making caramel always sets me on edge. Nevertheless, I wanted to make my husband’s birthday special so I set about making this tart which is made of 4 components- a chocolate shortbread crust, a thick caramel sauce, a caramel cream and a chocolate ganache. After several hours of work, the dinner was set. The husband geek enjoyed his dinner but I only managed a few spoonfuls of the pasta and the dessert. A few hours later, at about 3am, I woke my husband and informed him that my water broke. We drove to the hospital and after a day and a half of labor, I finally delivered Baby-geek. I’ll never really know why I delivered three weeks early, but I like to think the Twix tart was so tasty, the baby HAD to come out!
These pictures are a result of my recent attempt at making the tart for the husband-geek’s birthday a few weeks ago.Please bear in mind that this tart is labor-intensive but it’s well worth the effort. Invite a few friends over, open a bottle of red wine and eat the tart with self-righteous abandon!
Recipe Notes- The tart has several components that can be made ahead so don’t feel compelled to do everything at once. Pace yourself. The recipes are long on instructions but it’s very important to be methodical whenever you deal with something as delicate and fickle as caramel and chocolate. Remember to remove the caramel from heat several seconds BEFORE it’s done as it will continue to cook. My other bit of advice is to have a large bowl or pot filled with icy water that you can use to dunk the hot saucepan if the caramel needs to cool quickly.
Halsey Tart (from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking)
Special Tools- Candy Thermometer, Pastry Bag with a large (#6) plain tip, 8-3″ tart pans with removable bottoms
Chocolate Short Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder into a medium bowl and set aside.
2.Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly creamed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the powdered sugar and mix for 3o seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap it in plastic film. Chill for at least 4 hours. At this point, the dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To roll out the dough, gently pound it with a rolling pin to 1/4″ thick. Place a tart pan bottom on the dough and use a paring knife to cut out a circle. Repeat until you get 8 pieces. Spray all the tart pans with cooking spray and place them on a sheet pan. Adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven. Remove the circles of dough and place it inside the tart pans. Prick the dough with a fork and line the dough with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill the lining with beans or rice and bake the dough for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and remove the faux filling and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
Whipped Caramel Cream
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Wash your hands well. Combine the water, sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Stir them together with clean fingers, making sure no lumps of dry sugar remain. Brush down the inside of the pan with a little water using your hand to feel for any stray granules of sugar.
2. Cover the saucepan and place it over medium heat for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Do not stir from this point on. Keep an eye on the pan. It will be very bubbly. When stray sugar crystals appear on the side of the pan, brush them down with a clean, wet pastry brush.
3. As the sugar cooks, the bubbles will get larger. Insert a candy thermometer, and when the temperature reaches 300 degrees F, lower the heat to medium, which will slow the cooking. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches 325 degrees F; this will happen quickly. It will be golden brown. At 325 degrees F, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 1 minute or until the bubbles subside. Pour the caramel into a shallow dish and let cool for 2 hours until the consistency is like peanut butter.
4. Using a standing or hand mixer, whip the cream, creme fraiche and sugar for 3 minutes or until medium-stiff peaks form.
5. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the cream mixture into the caramel sauce. Cover and refrigerate.
Creamy Caramel Sauce
Caramel Recipe (from Whipped Caramel Cream) cooked to step 3 but heated to 350 degrees F.
1/2 cup cream, warmed to 100 degrees F
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
1. Heat a saucepan of water and place a whisk in it. When you remove the prepared caramel from the heat, it should be dark instead of golden brown. Let it rest for 1 minute, or until all the bubbles have subsided. Add the cream
to the caramel. It will bubble up vigorously, so be careful.
2. Vigorously whisk in the creme fraiche, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Keep the sauce in an airtight container and set aside to cool until the consistency is thick like peanut butter.
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely in 1/4″ pieces
4 tablespoons apricot jelly
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Warm the apricot jelly in a small saucepan over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring until it is melted. Whisk in the cream, milk, and corn syrup. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil.
2. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula,
slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.
3. When all the chocolate is melted, insert a thermometer. The temperature should be at 90 degrees F for the best glazing results.
Assembling the Twix Tart
1. Fit a pastry bag with a large (#6) plain tip and fill it half full of Whipped Caramel Cream. Pipe a ring of cream around the inside edge of each tart, like a doughnut. The cream should be higher than the edges of the crust. Fill the ‘doughnut holes’ to just below the top of the cream with a heaped tablespoon of Creamy Caramel Sauce. Cover with the remaining Whipped Caramel Cream. Using an offset spatula, carefully smooth the tops, creating a flat surface.
2. Place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
3. Remove the tarts from the freezer and spoon 1 tablespoon warm Ganache Glaze over the top of a tart. Pick it up and quickly swirl the topping over the cream to coat evenly. Repeat with the remaining tarts. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, remove the tarts from the pans and serve.